Book Review: Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson.

Blurb on Goodreads:

Nova will do anything for her closest friend, Mal, whom she has known since childhood. So when Mal and his wife, Stephanie, ask Nova to be a surrogate mother, she agrees—despite her reservations about what it might mean for their friendship. Then Nova’s fears are realized. Halfway through the pregnancy, Stephanie finds a text from her husband to Nova that reads “Goodnight, beautiful.” Already suspicious of their deep connection, Stephanie demands that Mal cut all ties to Nova and their unborn baby, leaving Nova to raise the child alone.

Eight years later, Nova is anxiously waiting for her son, Leo, to wake up from a coma, while childless Stephanie is desperately trying to save her failing marriage. Despite her anger and hurt, Nova wants Mal to have the chance to know his son before it’s too late. Will it take a tragedy to remind them all how much they mean to one another?


No. of pages: 433 pages

Publisher: Sphere

Year: February 4th, 2008

Setting: Leeds, London

It has been a good Dorothy Koomson marathon with the first ever book I’ve read by her being The Chocolate Run, followed by The Ice Cream Girls, and the last one being The Cupid Effect which I’m halfway in now and will likely blog about it the following weekend if I’m able to finish reading it by then.

Goodnight, Beautiful has been the most heart-reading and emotional book I’ve read compared to the previous two books by her. And the book kicked off with the main character’s son lying in hospital after a surgery-induced coma on a brain aneurysm. Just for soul’s sake, a friend’s mother had passed away from brain aneurysm late last year so having ro read again on the aneurysm thing made me feel kind of sad.

Dorothy Koomson has made herself a name in my home library as an author who doesn’t shy away from reality and the difficult subjects that life throws at us. Goodnight, Beautiful touches on the kind of tragedy that affects real people in the real world, including but not limited to pregnancy, jealousy and the fear of having a child in a coma.

About The Story

The book is centred mostly around the lives of two female characters: Nova Kumalisi and Stephanie Wacken. Nova is Malvolio ‘Mal’ Wacken’s best friend since childhood while Stephanie is Mal’s wife. Nova had always thought she and Mal had something going on but neither wanted to broach the subject for fear of affecting their friendship. Mal eventually met Stephanie and got married, despite knowing she would be unable to have children.

The book tells of Nova’s and Stephanie’s experiences and how it affected them as they grew up, and lends us an insight as to why they behaved and acted the way they did. I wouldn’t blame you for choosing a side, though, and it also depends on whose side you’re on. I took Nova’s side mostly because I’d been in her shoes once upon a time (minus the getting pregnant part) and I hated Stephanie with gusto because I’ve met people like her and had friends like her. To me, Stephanie was an evil witch, someone with a sad past who would readily use it as an excuse to her behaviour but not enough to say that it justifies her behaviour and actions.

Since Stephanie was unable to bear children, Mal decided to ask his best friend Nova to be a surrogate mother. Nova had concerns about the matter but seeing how close she was to Mal during their growing-up years, she didn’t think twice about it and agreed to it. But when Stephanie discovers a text in Mal’s phone, simply saying, “Goodnight, beautiful” to Nova. she felt a twinge of jealousy growing in her chest and delivered the ultimatum to Mal: that he will have to choose between his wife, and Nova and the baby without so much of giving him a proper reason. Eight years on, Nova had kept the baby, named him Leo and married a policeman and ex-Army personnel named Keith. Life, however, deals a horrible blow to Nova. Leo had been involved in an accident which resulted in him suffering from a brain aneurysm and had to undergo surgery. The surgery left him in a coma in hospital for weeks and Nova is only praying for her son’s recovery.

What I Thought

Despite everything; the sadness, the heartbreaking moments, the tears… I still believe that Goodnight, Beautiful was a bitter-sweet enjoyable read. I mean, yes, we could all do without the pain but the book was still so touching, right until the very end. I loved the characters (well, except Stephanie) and the storyline was so gripping and realistic! I could almost feel myself standing at Mal’s side, smacking him upside on the back of his head for letting Nova go without so much of a fight. What a wuss. But the master behind all this is the author. Koomson is an amazing writer and her books have always moved me, even the previous two that I read.

She explored the areas of jealousy and what it can do to your relationships, what effect surrogate motherhood can have on the person carrying the child and those around them, and how having a child in a coma can effect your entire world. It was a beautiful book no doubt and Koomson wrote it very well. The depths she dove in allowed the book to have meaning and substance. From the first page itself, I felt the book grabbing me by the throat and threatening not to let go. Each time I finished a chapter, I was too curious to want to put it down because I kept wanting to know what’s going to happen next. I find that not many books can do that to me. It’s definitely unlike The Chocolate RunThe Ice Cream Girls and The Cupid Effect (which I’m reading now) where all three tend to be pretty angsty at times.

So would I recommend this book? Yes, definitely! Although I’d warn you to prepare a box of tissues in advance if you are the type to break down easily at a drop of a hat. Also, don’t bother expecting any sort of romance here because when there is a hint of it, you might just want to throttle Stephanie for spoiling everything.

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